By Jacqueline Hyman
When most people think ‘Jewish event,’ the thought isn’t followed by ‘sushi.’ But for UMD Chabad, sushi is an annual tradition that allows students to get to know the organization in the first week of classes.
Chabad hosted its annual Labor Day fair Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. on La Plata beach. The fair allowed attendees to roll their own sushi for lunch and do crafts. About 20 students filtered through at a time, talking to friends and playing sports on the grass. Family and alumni also attended the fair.
Rabbi Eli Backman said Chabad has hosted this event on North Campus for around 20 years. Sushi-making has been part of the tradition for years since a part-time chef in the Jewish community came up with the idea.
“She got into it, and she engaged the students. So because of her idea, we tried sushi, and everybody loves sushi,” Backman said. “Not many people get to make their own sushi, so it’s kind of a neat twist on the routine.”
Other activities have varied through the years, with shofar-making as a principle craft when the event lines up closely with Rosh Hashanah. This is the first year spin art was included.
Junior Jewish studies major Aliza Silverman said she enjoyed meeting new people and seeing friends that she hadn’t seen over the summer.
“I’ve always enjoyed going to Chabad. The Backmans are really nice,” Silverman said. “The sushi was pretty good — free food — and I haven’t made spin art in about two years.”
Backman said Chabad generally relies on student volunteers to help set up the event.
“We reserve the space from the university, and then we do a lot of schlepping,” he said. “If I did this at Chabad, we’d get a different crowd. So I’d rather do the schlep and be here … An opening event that’s kind of out where [students] are, it makes it kind of easier for people to come.”
Meanwhile, junior Aaron Kraiman ran around telling attendees and passers-by about a new Chabad-based “fraternity” they’re calling Chai Beta Delta. The kinesiology major said he was using the fair as an unofficial rush event for the group, which would be based out of the Chabad building.
“Most Orthodox Jews don’t really have the opportunity to participate in Greek life,” Kraiman said, citing their inability to partake in Greek events during Shabbat.
Others have toyed with the idea, Kraiman said, but he’s been taking it to the next level by putting up signs and posters. He said he wants Jewish students to have the opportunity for a Greek life atmosphere.
Rabbi Levi Raskin from JCrafts led the shofar-making, and individual students went to craft their own with his help. They hollowed out the horns with power tools, sanded them down, and finished the shofars with a varnish. Others casually played frisbee, baseball and football throughout the event, creating a relaxing atmosphere.
“I always say that our job here is to present,” Backman said. “And hopefully, [if you’re] walking by, seeing an email or Facebook, you’ll connect. And once you connect, you engage.”